Friday, November 30, 2007

A Tribute to Evel

I can't wait to meet God, and ask why he didn't make me go faster on some of those jumps, why he put me through all this pain. He knows I'm not evil.

EVEL KNIEVEL,, May 19, 2006

My older brother was a small child when Evel Knievel was performing daredevil stunts for stadium-sized crowds. Big Bro was a huge fan of Evel Knievel and was thrilled when our father brought him to see the swashbuckler in action. Dad thought it would be great if to get a picture of Evel with Big Bro, so Dad tracked down EK’s public relations folks at the event and asked if it would be possible to arrange for Big Bro to meet Evel. Evel’s people said that this would not in fact be possible, and that my father was not the first person to make such a request. It was simply not a tenable policy to arrange for photo ops with every child whose parents requested.

Pop was not used to taking no for an answer and has always been quick on his feet. He put his hand on the shoulder of the man who seemed to be in charge, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, in a tone hushed so that Big Bro, standing longingly at his side, could not hear, “You don’t understand. My son may never have the opportunity to meet Evel Knievel ever again.” My father was not lying. Big Bro might actually never have had the chance to meet him ever again… not because Big Bro was terminally ill as one might have reasonably assumed based on the hushed tones and careful word choice, but simply because the odds of Big Bro ever having the chance to shake EK’s hand were slim-to-none—especially with the army of men employed to prevent such meetings.

“You mean—?” Evel’s PR man asked, assuming the worst.

“Yes,” my father quickly responded, pulling Big Bro tightly to his side, before the PR man could verbalize the words “he’s sick”. Thus, Dad never actually lied*; he failed to clarify.

“Let me see what I can do,” the man in Knievel’s employ said, sincerely, and hurried off.

The man never came back, so Dad and Big Bro assumed he had been unable to arrange to introduce Evel Knievel to Big Bro. Dad and Big Bro joined the gathering crowd to watch Evel perform this night’s feat of derring-do: jumping his motorcycle over some obscene quantity of cars and trucks parked side-by-side.

Before his big jump, Knievel removed his helmet and announced to the crowd, “Tonight we have a special guest with us. He’s the real hero.” And, he said Big Bro’s name. After the show, Dad found the PR agent again who whisked Big Bro and Dad away to have a private audience with Evel Knievel.

Evel Knievel died today. Dad was right: Big Bro never again had the chance to meet Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel, Jr.

* When Dad retells this story today, he is careful to assure the listener that he no longer abides by the same brand of situational ethics to which he adhered in the olden days. He admits that while he did not actually lie in this case, he was in fact dishonest. It is only fair to Dad and the reader that they receive the same disclaimer: This was the Old Dad.

Image accessed from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I can't help (prat)falling in love with you

Mike at I Am Prepared to Give Up at Any Time wrote in a comment to one of his own recent posts about his inability to attain perpendicularity with a surfboard, “Lack of coordination is just universally endearing.”

For me, this is a good thing.

Mike’s failure to stand on a surfboard parallels the collective outdoorsy (and indoorsy) athletic failure of my life: I have at one time or another failed to thrive (by “thrive” I mean “maintain uprightness”) at snow skiing, water skiing, skateboarding, roller skating, ice skating, walking down stairs, walking up stairs, walking on flat surfaces, sitting on four-legged chairs… I have fallen face first and shaken my fists in frustration at snow, ice, concrete, and whatever it is roller rinks are made of.

But, if what Mike says is true and klutziness is in fact somehow attractive, my falling on skis, skates, blades, and shoes may have been the linchpin vital to the procurement of lifelong love and affection. Indeed, I have fallen in front of my wife more often than I care to admit. When we were in college, I tumbled to the ground at least three times in the first month of our dating relationship.

The first fall was the most spectacular. My now-wife (then-girlfriend) had been volunteering as a youth group leader at a local church, and she brought me to meet the high schoolers one Sunday morning. The church was a split-level structure. After passing through the stately doors, one could go upstairs or downstairs. When I walked in for the first time, the wife whispered to me, “Shhh. They’re praying.” Indeed, I looked down the stairs and saw a group of adolescents holding hands in a circle, eyes closed in fervent devotion to their Maker. I had barely whispered, “Ok, I’ll be quiet,” when I stepped forward to find empty space where I had expected there to be more floor. In the blink of an eye, I was hurtling down the steps, somersaulting twice before reaching the bottom of the stairs, landing on my back, head half protruding into the prayer circle. Youthful eyes popped open and jaws dropped. I stared back up. “Hi, I’m Yajeev,” I quipped, trying to be funny. They laughed, but not in a “What a funny quip” kind of way.

The second fall was the most heroic. The now-wife (then-girlfriend) and I had spent a lovely evening “studying” at Eat N’ Park. We elected to check our mail when we returned to campus. We walked into the building which housed the mail hall, and I gallantly offered to carry the wife’s laptop computer. It had been raining, so our shoes were wet, squeaking with every step. A large stairway led to the mail hall. I descended a few steps when the moisture between my shoe and the step compromised the frictional forces that typically (ok, sometimes) prevent me from slipping. My feet slipped out from under me, and I plunged straight down, rear first, to the step which should at that moment have been supporting my feet. The bruises on my buttocks might have been prevented if only I had attempted to grab the railing on my way down, but I could do no such thing: I held my wife’s computer in my hands. Instinctually, I thrust her computer high above my head, and my tush collided with one step, then another, then another, and so on. My ego may have been severely damaged, but her computer survived without a scratch.

The third fall was the most pathetic. It was freezing. The then-girlfriend (now-wife) had brought me to meet her mother (my now-mother-in-law) and grandmother (my now-grandmother-in-law). We arrived at Grandma’s house, exchanged pleasantries for a brief time in her living room, and decided to leave for dinner. My wife, followed by her mother and grandmother, walked out the front door onto the icy porch. I brought up the rear. Now-wife gingerly descended the ice-covered steps leading to the driveway. Then, Now-mother-in-law carefully walked down the steps. Next, Now-grandmother-in-law, chatting feverishly about her kitty cats, made her way down each frozen step: foot, foot, cane, foot, foot, cane, etc. After three generations of future female relatives had reached the car without incident, it was my turn. I stepped onto the first stair. That was it: my feet never found the other three stairs. I’m not sure how it happened, but one moment I was walking down the porch stairs, the next I was face-down in the snow.

Perhaps it was these moments and not my brains, charm, or good looks that endeared me to my wife. If Mike is right, it may have been my literally kissing the ground that Now-wife then walked on that inexplicably drew her to me. All those times I thought she was trying to kill me by snapping two elongated flat boards onto my feet and shoving two sticks into my hands before sending me careening down a snow-covered mountain or by affixing razor thin pieces of metal to the bottoms of my boots and asking me to travel in aimless circles on an indoor puddle of ice with throngs of other people with razor thin pieces of metal affixed to the bottoms of their boots, she might actually have been turned on by my pratfalls and encores of pratfalls.

The moment I truly won her heart must have been when I collapsed in front of a gaggle of preschool skiers and their ski instructor. I slid gracefully from the ski lift, glided a few yards, and delicately crumpled to the cold, cold ground. As I struggled unsuccessfully to return to my skis, the class of three- and four-year-olds (all infinitely more proficient on skis than me) gathered around me, staring at the floundering mess of a wannabe skier. The instructor helped me to my feet. The little ones giggled mercilessly, as did the wife. Much of the rest of my day was spent recovering from similar pratfalls.

All my life, I’ve labored to overcome my proneness to accidents of all varieties, when perhaps I should have been embracing it. It may be the bomp in the bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp that made my baby fall in love with me.

I am a paragon of gracelessness; this just might be my saving grace.

Monday, November 19, 2007

With (imaginary) friends like these...

...who needs real ones?

My previous post about imaginary friends has ignited an unanticipated firestorm of impassioned responses from Co-worker’s (imaginary) bus friends. Several of them have emailed me. I’ve obtained their permission and here present what they have sent. Names have been changed to protect the invented. For full context, please read the original post. It’s getting rave reviews, primarily from imaginary friends (mine and otherwise). These notes were so amusing (and so sad) that they require little comment on my part, but I thought Co-worker's (imaginary) friends ought to have the chance to defend their constitution before my readership. I report; you decide. You be the judge.

This is the first one I received:

Hi folks - here's my response to Co-worker's "imaginary" co-worker!! :)

Hi Yajeev:

I just wanted you to know that Co-worker is not (at this time) living in a fantasy land. I am actually one of her bus buddies (actually, I am the Martini Lady on the bus). Co-worker is absolutely correct about the noise we make and how much fun we have. This is really a great bunch of people and we've made a lot of good friends over our treks into town and Oakland. If it wasn't for our bus buddies, our trips would be boring. You should come and ride with us sometime. I'm sure you'd consider moving out to the Moon area just to ride the bus with us!!!

By the way, I have a 5 year old grandson who has two imaginary friends called "Meat" and "Grape". He will sit and talk to them just like they're in the same room with him. At one point, we weren't sure if this was normal, but someone told my daughter that it is very natural and is a sign of intelligence. So, I have therefore accepted Meat and Grape and hope someday my intelligent grandson will be paying for my old age home!!!

Thanks for sharing your concerns about Co-worker, but let me reassure you that she is very sane at this stage of her life. I can't speak for the past or the future, but her present is bright!!


The Martini Lady

Shortly thereafter, I received this email:

Hi Yajeev,

I'm "Belly Dancer" and I assure you I am not in her imagination. She is totally "sane" as far as that word can be described and as the Martini Lady said, we have a lot of fun at what would otherwise be totally boring. Hope we can meet you some day - or are you a figment of her indagation too?

Belly Dancer

Also Tastefully Simple lady (I have many personalities - oops, maybe I'm insane)

Next, one of the imaginary friends emailed the group of faux friends.

Hi all,

I think we should let Yajeev and Sudoku Woman write a book about our bus buddy escapades; then we can publish it, make a mint, and retire to our never, never land of imagination. Come to think of it, I remember having an imaginary playmate named Cindy who became real.......We'd better watch out.


That was nice. Thanks, "Minty".

Finally, "Sudoku Woman", clearly the voice of reason in Co-worker's mind, chimed in.

Co-worker's a whacko - she created all of these fake email addresses and has been responding to them herself. Belly dancers? Martinis? On the bus??? I think not!

I'm surprised she hasn't gone on about hooch parties and food fests. I even heard once (and this is truly sad) that she MET her bus buddies after work FOR DINNER - dragging her poor husband along (he had no idea things had gotten this bad). Imagine when she requested "Table for 8 please" and assured the host that "they're coming".

A good idea would be to move her from the 28K to the Western Psych Express (the good part being that this is ACTUALLY an express bus and doesn't stop anyplace else on the way).

Sudoku Woman
(I exist - but sit quietly keeping to myself because she got me hooked on these stupid SUDOKU puzzles. I'm also 5'11", 135lbs, with perky boobs and excellent skin.)

Receiving these notes made my job as a bloggist easy: change the names, copy and paste. Many thanks to Co-worker and her alter egos for their whimsical contributions.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

They're coming to take me away, ha ha!

My co-worker takes public transportation to work and tells wonderful stories about the friends she’s made on the bus over the years. “You’ll never guess what Barbara said this morning…” or “Mary Ann told me the funniest joke.” Apparently, Co-worker and crew sit in the back of the bus and rabble rouse, disturbing the other passengers. On more than one occasion, reportedly, Co-worker and her friends have been asked to “keep it down” by other riders trying to catch a few winks before heading in to work.

Despite all of the sordid, sundry tales I’ve heard about Co-worker’s bus friends, I have never met a single one of said cadre of compadres. Sometimes, I’ll walk into work and Co-worker will tell me that her bus friends had just come and gone. It’s happened on more than one occasion that her buddies had left mere moments before my arrival. With each additional occurrence of near-miss bus-friend sightings, I’ve become more skeptical that these fine folks actually exist. I have nearly become convinced that Co-worker’s bus friends are of the imaginary variety.

It’s a sad thought… Co-worker sitting on the bus chatting up a storm with what must appear to other riders to be empty seats… laughing and carrying on despite the pleas of annoyed (and perhaps even sympathetic) passengers to keep her enthusiasm down. I have delicately made mention of this possibility to Co-worker, but she has, quite naturally, I daresay, denied vigorously any such proposition. “They’re not imaginary. I’ll bring them here to meet you someday,” she promises, but that someday never seems to come.

To my knowledge, I’ve never had my own imaginary friends, but I can remember interacting with my brother's. Sometime in his early childhood, Little Bro had developed his own gang of make-believe friends. Little Bro’s imaginary friends were named: Blue Boy, Brown Boy, Yellow Boy, Green Boy, and Lily Car-Jacket.

Lily Car-Jacket was his girlfriend. Nothing made Little Bro angrier than mixing up his girlfriend’s name. “How’s Lily Car-Coat?” I’d ask, taunting.

“It’s Lily Car-JACKET,” he’d fume.

“Oh, right. Sorry. Lily Truck-Jacket.” And so on.

Each differently colored Boy had a distinct personality. Yellow Boy was the most dependable, friendliest member of the bunch. Green Boy was the worst. He was always causing problems, spilling Little Bro’s milk or leaving messes in the bedroom or tying Little Bro’s shoelaces together. Little Bro was the leader of his fantasy pack and a strong disciplinarian at that. Little Bro was always sending Green Boy to the time out chair. Once, while we were in vacation in the mountains of West Virginia, Green Boy was misbehaving so severely that Little Bro actually threw Green Boy in a state park trashcan. Unfortunately, devious Green Boy’s hitchhiking skills were top notch, and Little Bro found him waiting for us at home when we returned from our vacation.

At some point in the progress of Little Bro’s relationship with Lily Car-Jacket and the Green and Blue and Brown and Yellow Boys, it occurred to me that I could have some big brotherly fun at the expense of Little Bro’s imagination. To this end, I invented Zorton, my alter-ego alien twin. I managed to convince Little Bro that whenever I walked into a closet alone and shut the door, I would mysteriously switch places with Zorton, my outer-space doppleganger. We laughed alike; we walked alike. At times we even talked alike. And Little Bro bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Whenever I was bored, I would enter the closet and emerge as Zorton. I would spin the most intricate yarns about my interstellar adventures and wax eloquent about the wonders of the universe as Little Bro would sit in rapt wonder. When I tired of playing the part, I would enter the closet and re-emerge as Yajeev, too exhausted from the galactic exchange to spend any more time engaging Little Bro. Little Bro was about 10 when he began to suspect Zorton was a fraud. Zorton and I would go to great lengths to reassure Little Bro that we would never play such a cruel joke on him. As demonstration of Zorton’s authenticity, I (Zorton) would utter some garbled outer-space phrase that I (Yajeev) would later feign difficulty articulating. Much to Little Bro’s embarrassment, it wasn’t until he finished the sixth grade (long after the gradual fade of Lily Car-Jacket and company into the sunset) that he finally became convinced of Zorton’s unreality.

The imagination is a terrible, wonderful thing. I laugh to recall Little Bro’s Technicolor Boys. I feel a mixture of pride and regret as I retell the Zorton delusion. And, I feel pity for Co-worker and her imaginary boisterous bunch of bus friends.

Of course, I do sometimes wonder how much I myself might be imagining. What portions of my reality may be the artificial constructs of my id or super ego? Am I the pitiable soul carrying on with imaginary co-workers? Do I have imaginary friends with imaginary friends? Is Watson Steve my Yellow Boy and the wife my Lily Car-Jacket? Is the friend I instant message my Green Boy; would my chat transcripts reveal pathetic monologues rather than witty dialogues? As I question my my own reality, I feel my sanity slipping, slipping, slipping… I am crawling deeper and deeper into a cave… are the shadows on the walls real readers commenting on my blog or are they figments of my own imagination providing the validation my soul craves…

Thursday, November 8, 2007

In the middle of the night

A wise person once counseled my wife and me that important conversations should not occur after 10:00 pm. We have done our best to abide by this general rule, knowing that the later in the evening a discussion is commenced, the more likely it is to be emotionally rather than intellectually driven.

That being said, some of our most interesting communication has undoubtedly happened after the bewitching hour of midnight.

In our marriage, it has often been the case that my wife has fallen asleep before me, sometimes by a matter of hours. When I worked as a college dormitory supervisor, it was my duty to patrol the halls and campus grounds well into the night; when I would return home from a hard day's night, she'd be fast asleep, snug as a bug in a rug. And now, as a graduate student, I often sit in bed late at night reading papers, working on assignments, or blogging; exciting as these tasks are, she is rarely able to maintain consciousness whilst I hammer away at the backlit keyboard. Indeed, basking in the warm dim glow of my laptop screen listening to my restfully deep-breathing sleeping wife is a favorite scenario of mine.

It is within this context that the aforementioned most interesting exchanges often occur. My wife typically claims to have no recollection of these conversations the mornings after, which leads me to conclude that she was likely in an altered state of consciousness when they occurred (i.e. talking in her sleep).

Recently, for instance, I had gotten up to use the restroom in the middle of the night. As I slipped back into bed as gingerly as my 260-pound five-foot eleven-and-a-half inch frame would allow, my wife turned toward me just a little and blurted, "Hey fifth grader!"

I replied, "Who, me?"

And she returned with a resounding "Yes, you!" She then proceeded to serenade me with the theme song to the Fox reality show, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

When these nuggets of late-night conversational gold appear, I have the urge to find a pen and paper and jot down what she has said (or, in some cases, sung) to me. But, just as I do when I awake from a dream I'd like to record the contents of, I convince myself I'll remember her words in the morning. I rarely do. Today, I remembered the "fifth grader" bit, so I thought I'd make a permanent record of it here.

And, while I'm at it, I thought I'd share a few other interesting comments I can remember from the past five-and-a-half blissful years of sleepy time shenanigans before the memories fade into oblivion.

I can recall having worked outside at the college on one particularly cold evening. I returned home chilled to the bone and tucked myself into bed, snuggling next to my snoozing wife for body warmth. "Brrrrr!" she shouted. "You're an ice cube. I'm a heat cube." She rolled away from me, pulling all of the covers with her, muttering something about how ice cubes and heat cubes shouldn't touch.

It is clear, however, that in her sleep, she betrays her deepest thoughts about me. I've been called both a "maztoh ball head" and "a real fideller", which based on the preceding Cuban themed sleep talk conversation, I assume was a reference to Castro, but I can't be sure.

I have of course shared the joy and inanity of her late-night verbal outpourings with a few (hundred) friends and family. My brother wished to experience my wife’s nocturnal loquacity for himself, so he would visit our apartment to watch late-night movies, hoping my lovely bride would fall asleep on the couch. One evening, after watching the exhilarating French-subtitled film Manon des Sources, the little lady conked right out on the couch, and my brother wasted no time in attempting to egg her on to spoken absurdity. It didn’t take much for her to spout off something about being Big Bird in Sesame Street on Ice or some such incoherent gibberish. Little Brother laughed hysterically, asking her one question after the next, leading her further and further down the rabbit trail of nonsensical gobbledygook. Finally, his laughter was too much, and my wife was aroused from her slumber, a small bit perturbed that she had been so exploited for the amusement of others beside myself.

On more than one occasion, she has 'written' and sung lyrics to entire songs that did not exist before her head hit the pillow. These usually send me into riotous fits of merriment that wake her up after a stanza or two. The only song that I can remember and report the lyrics to was quite an ingenious little ditty about Singer Sewing Machines. What made this song quite amazing is that she had never really talked, much less thought, in great depth about this particular apparatus. The song was quite simple with the following verse repeated maybe twenty-ought times:

Sing ‘er a song about a Singer Sewing Machine… a singer sewing machine
Sing ‘er a song about a Singer Sewing Machine… a singer sewing machine

The first couple times she sang the verse she had been lying on her back, barely moving, but, as she repeated it a few more times, she started to feel the rhythm and began to move her shoulders to the beat. Finally, she became so emotionally moved by these lyrics, she bolted upright in bed and sang the song, eyes still closed but face contorted with emotion, in a loudish inside voice, such that I’m pretty sure our apartment neighbors were the recipients of a free chronically crescendoing midnight concert. It was amazing. She just kept singing and singing this verse over and over again. Finally, I felt it the merciful decision to wake her up so that she would not lose her voice as a result of her extended unconscious choral performance.

“Honey,” I said, gently shaking her shoulder. She did not flinch but continued to sing, with feeling.

Sing ‘er a song….

I gently shook her shoulder. “Dear, you’re sleepsinging.” No response.

…about a Singer Sewing Machine…

“You’re going to wake the neighbors, sweetheart.”

… a Singer Sewing Machine…

Finally, I grabbed both shoulders and shook firmly (but non-violently). She continued singing, but her eyes popped open. She continued repeating her verse, looking around the room, trying to figure out who and where she was. The words slowed down to a trickle.

Sing… her… a... song…

“Sweetheart, you’ve been singing in your sleep.

about… a... Singer… Sewing… Machine…

She stopped singing, looked at me as if I were crazy and said, “No I haven’t.”

“Dear,” I replied, defending my position, “you have been singing a song about a classic sewing contraption…” It was pointless to continue. She had already lied down again and closed her eyes. She mumbled something, but her murmurs faded into the nighttime silence.

The song had such a catchy tune that I still find myself humming it on occasion.

I leave you with perhaps my all-time favorite nighttime sleeping wife antic:

Attention all shoppers, attention all shoppers. Supermarket Sweep is about to begin!

Following this exclamation, my wife then described in the first person her dreamland experiences of running through the game show grocery store Bonus Sweep.

Now I’m running up and down the aisles… and now I’m looking for graham crackers… and now I found the graham crackers and I’m throwing it in my cart… and now I’m looking for a giant banana… and I found the giant banana… yippee!!! And now I’m looking for a turkey… and I found the turkey… oooh, the turkey’s heavy… and now I’m running back to the start… and… and… and… I win!!! I win!!! I win!!!

She’s so beautiful and peaceful when she sleeps.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Yajeev got run over by a donkey.

I met my wife in the organic chemistry lab.

I proposed to my wife in the organic chemistry lab.

And, somewhere in between, I nearly lost my wife forever in the organic chemistry lab.

She was a chemistry student, I the charming and mature chemistry lab assistant. At the time we both were molecular biology majors and held as possible career plans practicing medicine in the third world. I remember our first conversation very clearly. She had described to me her desires to be a medical missionary and concluded, with a twinkle in her eye, "Now, I just need to find a husband who has the same vision." * Huh, I thought, she totally digs me.

There was chemistry from the very beginning, and our relationship progressed from week-to-week, as I, the older and wiser student, would impress her with my deep and wide knowledge of all things organically chemical as well as my ability to open really tightly closed chemical containers (some of which I may have pretightened for just such demonstrative feats of strength). Occasionally, I would surprise her with flowers or mix tapes in her lab drawer.

There were two lab assistants for this class: I mostly assisted the cute girl at the front bench; my partner assisted the other 15 students.

Our relationship progressed quite nicely until the last lab session of the semester. This session was dedicated to checking out-- students ensured their drawers were still appropriately stocked with lab materials, that their bench areas were clean, that they'd turned in all of the required assignments, etc.

My co-lab assistant (or lab co-assistant) and I had a brilliant idea. Since the check-out lab was less than two weeks before Christmas, we played our then-favorite Christmas carol: Dominic the (Italian Christmas) Donkey blared through the lab in a continuous loop. And we added one more required task to the mandatory end-of-term to-do list. In addition to cleaning bench tops and handing in lab reports, each student had to make the sound of a donkey before exiting the lab. It didn't have to be theatrical-- a spoken "heehaw" would suffice.

To the other lab assistant and myself, this made total sense. To most of the males in the class, this made total sense: they complied enthusiastically, some voluntarily getting on all fours** to more realistically emulate the donkey. To the professor in the class, this made partial sense: he appeared to be amused by the inanity. To most of the females in the class, this made little sense: they merely spoke or, in some cases, whispered "heehaw".

To my then-girlfriend, this made absolutely no sense whatsoever: the donkey noise requirement was downright assinine (sic).

My partner and I stood at the door, preventing anyone from leaving without meeting all of the requirements. My now-wife glared at me as she approached with her materials. I asked her as she neared, "What's the magic word?" She was not amused. She did not open her mouth, nor did she stop moving. In fact, she began walking more quickly towards me. I braced myself firmly in the doorway, arms extended. She ran straight into my arm (think: "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Yajeev's girlfriend right over"). Despite her best efforts to escape, my arms were rigid. "What's the magic word?" I repeated, Dominic blasting in the background for the 12th straight time. She did not respond. Instead, she struggled against me. She ducked to go beneath my arm, but I lowered it to block her.

Finally, as we engaged in a battle of wills, the angel on my shoulder asked me, "Yajeev, why are you doing this? What are you trying to prove? Wouldn't it be better to admit defeat and save your relationship?"

The demon on the other shoulder was quick to retort: "No, Yajeev. You must win! Relenting is tantamount to weakness." I can't be sure whether I listened to the angel or if she overpowered me, but before I had to time to rationally weigh the pros and cons of enforcing lab law, she had wriggled free and had escaped.

Instantly, I realized the complete extent of my foolishness (idiocy, my wife now corrects me as I write) of our game. As she walked down the hall away from the lab, I shouted, "Hey, I'll call you when everyone's checked out!" She did not reply or acknowledge me.

I returned to lab, turned down the stereo, and finished the check-out procedures, markedly subdued from when we had begun.

After the last student had turned in his assignments and enthusiastically heehawed, I rushed to my dorm room to call my girlfriend. She did not answer the phone. I hung up and called again. She still did not answer. I repeated again and again, until finally, she picked up. "Hey there," I said, as if I hadn't just embarrassed her in front of her classmates and been calling her room obsessively until she begrudgingly answered the phone. "Hey," she replied as if I had in fact just embarrassed her in front of her classmates and been calling her room obsessively until she begrudgingly answered the phone.

I had to make things right. Christmas break was around the corner, and I did not want to part ways on bad terms. "Wanna get some coffee?" I asked. There was silence. "C'mon. It'll be romantic." More silence. "Whaddya say?"

After a pause, "Okay. Pick me up?"

"No," I replied, "Let's walk. It'll be romantic." (I was big on romance.)

After another pause, "Okay."

A few minutes later, I met her at her dorm entrance. It was cold and wet. There was about six inches of snow on the ground, and the streets were filled with black, dirty, icy slush. The coffee shop was a half-mile away. I put her hand in mine. She did not resist, though she did not squeeze back. We began walking. No. We began trudging. Very quickly, I realized that the notion of walking being more romantic than driving may have been a gross miscalculation, but I had passed the point of no return. The wet snow covered our shoes and ice cold water seeped in through our socks. I tried to carry the conversation as we marched down the cold, wet romantic street, but I could tell I had not yet won her back.

Finally, we arrived at the coffee shop. I opened the door for her (because that's the kind of guy I am when I'm not barricading doors waiting for donkey sounds). We walked to the counter and placed our orders. We carried our hot beverages to a cozy little table against on the side of the shop, dimly lit by a small lamp affixed to the wall.

"My feet are freezing," she said matter-of-factly. "And soaking wet," she added.

"I'm really sorry about that," I replied, cognizant of the fact that I had not yet improved the situation or my standing within it. I tried to look into her eyes, but hers were diverted toward her hot cocoa. I turned my head and gazed blankly at the wall. Staring at the lamp burned my eyes, though this pain was no worse than the heartburn I was experiencing over my most recent relationship faux pas.

Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea, an idea that would surely impress my girlfriend and bring me back into her good graces. "Take off your shoes," I told her.

"What?" she asked, startled.

"And your socks. Give me your socks."

She looked at me like I was a lunatic (which, by now, reader, you too might believe to be true). "Just give me your socks. I have an idea." As an aside, and perhaps as a bit of foreshadowing, I must say that it is striking how often the words "I have an idea" are followed by really crummy results. At least when I say them. The same goes for "Hey, watch this!"

"Do it. You won't regret it," I importuned. After having been humiliated in front of her peers, having listened to her phone ring unceasingly for ten minutes, and having been coerced into tromping through the snow and slush, she had lost the will to fight. Inexplicably to those sitting around us and even to herself, she complied, removing her shoes and socks. She handed her socks to me across the table and rested her bare feet on a chair on the opposite side of the table (as the only viable alternative to placing them on the dirty floor).

I took her socks and draped them across the metal rods which suspended the light bulb in the middle of the lamp under the lampshade. "This'll warm them up and dry them out," I explained, pride brimming. She did not resist, but made no indication that she supported this effort.

We continued drinking and maintained a decent level of conversation. Things began to improve slightly. Every few minutes, I'd reach up under the lampshade to feel the socks. After several minutes, they remained cold and wet. We had nearly finished our drinks, and it seemed my brilliant sock-drying plan was not working. Accordingly, I made a minor adjustment: I moved the socks from the metal rods and laid them carefully across the bulb. The bulb was very hot, and I knew that this would speed the process dramatically; these socks would be toasty warm and dry in no time at all.

We refilled our drinks and resumed our conversation. I was feeling cautiously optimistic about my chances. I had at least managed to engage her in a meaningful verbal exchange, and I think she was genuinely touched by my efforts to provide warm, dry socks. Maybe it was the sugar and caffeine perfusing our neurons, but for a few moments, I felt like I could fix this situation and extricate myself from the bind in which I found myself.

I was reveling in the hero status I would have when her piggy toes were hot and snug when... something smelled funny... "Do you smell that?" I asked.

She sniffed. "Yeah, it smells like... like... like something is burning."

"I think you're right. I wonder what they've burnt," I replied.

I turned to look at the coffee bar when thin wisps of gray smoke floating above the wall lamp caught my eye. "Oh, shoot!" I let slip as I thrust my hands to the light bulb, oblivious to the heat it emitted, and pulled the socks to my lap.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Nothing," I lied. My heart sank. I had gone from hero to zero in a matter of moments. All hopes of saving this strained relationship by the ingenious laundry drying-by-light-bulb approach had been dashed.

I slowly lifted her socks above the table for her to see. Where the heels had once been were now baseball-sized holes surrounded by a fringe of charred, black cotton. Her eyes were wide. I was sure this would be the end of me. As I mentally framed an apology for the atrocity I had committed to her socks, the unexpected occurred: the biggest smile I had seen all day appeared on her face as she broke into hysterical laughter. She grabbed the socks from my hand and examined them, still laughing. She slipped her socks onto her feet, heels protruding, then her shoes.

We plodded back to campus, hand-in-hand (this time, she squeezed back). By some miraculous twist of fate, my utter ineptitude had saved the day and endeared me to my now-wife. The same cannot be said of poor Dominic. She still hates the Italian Christmas Donkey. I still love him... and, against better judgment, am unable to refrain from turning up the radio volume when the song comes on. It's a miracle she's still with me.


* My wife remembers this conversation a little differently (i.e. incorrectly): She had described her desires to be a medical missionary. I interjected, she contends, with a twinkle in my eye, "Now you just need to find a husband who has the same vision." Huh, she thought, that's a funny thing to say.

** Under ordinary circumstances, it is not recommended to get on all fours in a chemistry lab, as there may be chemicals, shards of broken glass, or other hazardous material it would be unwise to crawl through. However, the compulsion to act out as a donkey is no ordinary circumstance.

Friday, November 2, 2007

If you'd like a second extra hour this time change...

You can purchase an hour from the life of ebay user lazyjoecox.

He has made the following sales pitch:
Ready for an amazing deal!!!! I am putting an hour of my life up for sale. As you know, this weekend time changes and an hour is gained. Instead of using my extra hour for fun and festivities, I am willing to sell it to you. Once I receive payment, I will mail you a certificate which certifies that YOU now own my hour. As you can tell from my picture, my time is very valuable. Don't worry if purchase is made after the time change, because I will not be using my hour. I am saving it for you!!!! Good luck bidding!!! Use wisely.

There is something of a bidding war raging over the rights to lazyjoecox's 60 precious minutes (my highest offer thus far has been significantly surpassed). At the time of this posting, the leading bid is $1.00, having skyrocketed 100-fold from earlier this morning: the opening bid was a paltry penny.

Back-of-the-envelope calculations can place an approximate value on the life of lazyjoecox. As an American male, lazyjoecox can be expected to live to the ripe old age of 77.6 years. Given 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, and 77.6 years of life (adding 20 leap year days), that's 680,256 hours. At $1 per hour (the going rate as of 11:35 pm), his life is worth nearly $700,000. If the bid increases to $1.47, lazyjoecox should feel like a million bucks.

Reassuringly, lazyjoecox has an extraordinary 100% positive feedback rating... so you know you'll get that hour expeditiously and in pristine quality.

With six days remaining, there is still time to place a bid (if you're interested, click here).

NOTE: After completing this post, I placed a new bid and am currently the highest bidder at $1.25 (bringing the value of Mr. lazyjoecox's life to $850,320.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Falling back once again...

If you've been reading my blog for over a year, you will find this post to be a reiteration of a staunchly held policy opinion.

When it came time to moving the clocks back one hour last year (the so-called "Fall Back"), I presented a rather wordy exposition of my firmly held beliefs on Daylight Savings Time practices.

I was recently perusing another fine blog, A Blogger Around the Clock, and came across an entry highlighting recent studies which indicated that the seemingly innocuous one-hour time change may have longer-term effects than previously believed.

I, of course, used the comments section of this entry as an opportunity to share the time-changing truths I hold to be self-evident.

Then, a week later, I performed a routine vanity Google search for "yajeev" (no, Google, I did not mean rajeev, thank you very much) and found that my quote had been picked up by anthropologist and professor John Hawks and featured in his excellent blog. He tagged my comments as "humor", but I will forgive him for this small oversight.

I am honored, and I direct you here to my stump speech (much abridged from last year's version).

And, remember to turn your clocks back Saturday night. You'll have an extra hour for sleep (or keeping up with my blog).